Getting Through the Holidays After Disaster, Loss, or Break-up

First: a big thank you to the doctors, nurses, first responders , and journalists working day and night shifts over the holidays.  ( In my first career in TV news, I logged about 10 Christmases and New Years shifts in the CBS newsroom. Working the holidays can be stressful.)

This is a tough time of year and I'm not talking about a bad hair day.

If you are going through a loss, illness, or break-up or if this is your first holiday after a disaster, here are a few ideas on how to get through them:

1. Don't isolate. Spend time with friends or family members who understand you are going through a difficult time.  I recently polled my network of Hurricane Sandy survivors and this was the unanimous recommendation.

2.  Reframe your expectations.  It's almost impossible to avoid being bombarded by commercials that equate love with expensive gifts. Send a laugh to someone who needs it. It's free at americangreetings.com. There are several other services as well. 3.  Put unnecessary tasks and obligations on your "NOT-To-Do" List.  You will lower your stress levels and seriously, it can wait.

4. Take mini-breaks to relax.  Chill out with your favorite videos or music.  Read. Take a walk.  Meditate. If you are not  a meditator, you can close your eyes and imagine you're in Hawaii. Harvard research shows that four 5-minute a day mini-breaks are as effective in lower stress as one 20-minute session.

5. Reach out to someone who is having a hard time.  You can text, email, or call.  The minute or so you spend touching base with empathy for another person will do more to put you in a holiday mood than opening presents.

6. Give time instead of money. One year when her dad was unemployed and I had been laid off from my job while on disability, my daughter created IOU's for back rubs and helping us with chores.  They were creative, beautiful, and from the heart. I don't remember any other gifts we exchanged that year.  Can you offer to help someone with a computer task? Shovel snow? Go to the supermarket?  When you give your time it shows true caring.

7. Avoid negative triggers.  Don't go to places that will make you cry. If your house burned down or flooded, this is not the time to visit and remember your last Christmas there.  Turn off the TV if watching makes you cry.  Try not to engage with friends or family members whose behavior upsets you. Seriously, they'll forgive you.

8. Ask yourself the Power Question:  If I do (X), will it GIVE me energy, help me CONSERVE my energy, or DRAIN my energy?  If the answer is C) DRAIN my energy, don't do it.  Only you can conserve your own energy. Take care of yourself and you will get through the next week without feeling drained. (Okay, you might feel guilty but you'll get over it...and you won't feel exhausted by the end of the night.)

9. Be safe.  This is a time when people get upset and drive when they've had a few too many. NEVER drink and drive.  Make sure your electrical connections are safe so that your tree doesn't catch on fire.  Cover all outlets to protect toddlers and young kids who might be visiting.  Do not indulge in foods that can trigger your allergies, diabetes, or high blood pressure. It's hard to turn down delicious treats but you won't end up in the ER.

Which is where we started this post: Thanking those doctors, nurses, first responders and yes, journalists who are on the job these next few days so that we can enjoy our holidays safely and with a minimum of holiday stress.

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